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Mar 28, 2011 01:54 PM

Update to Friday's tabloid story about The Barefoot Contessa

  1. I have a very hard time believing that her "representatives" did not inform her of the Make a Wish request, not only once, but twice. It sounds more like damage control to me.

    29 Replies
    1. re: SmartCookie

      well, possibly damage control, or possibly it is their job to screen out requests she is not able to honor. 100 requests a month is a great many. I still think the mom was unrealistic ( I'm being charitable here) in expecting a celebrity to honor her request.

      1. re: karenfinan

        Most people dont' realize that a great great majority of reqeusts made by the Make a Wish Foundation to celebs are never granted, much less acknowledged, and, yet, those are not publicized like this one. Odd.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          NO request made by MAW to a fire (volunteer or carer) or police department has ever been denied. I wish I could find the article.

          1. re: Just Plain Craig

            Even if that were true, firefighters and police officers (bless their service) are not celebs, like Ina.

            Apples and oranges.

            (As an aside, what if the request was to ride-along during a takedown of the Mexican Mafia? Would that be granted? Or to tag along on a call to put out a burning inferno? Just asking ...)

            1. re: ipsedixit

              That is an excellent point. There is likely much more to the story than we will ever know.

              My dearest friend has a son who was dx'd with a horrible childhood cancer almost 4 years ago. He was contacted by MAW while at the hospital. They offer wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses, not just terminally ill.

              His wish was to go crab fishing on the Bering Sea with the crew of the Northwestern from The Deadliest Catch. That is what he wanted. That is all that he wanted.

              The MAW people let the family know that they would make the request, but that there were serious issues about safety and liability that even if the Northwestern crew were okay with, MAW wasn't.

              If you are familiar with the show, it won't surprise you to know that his request was denied. That could have been the end of the story and there could have been one very heartbroken, sick boy. If the parents were different people, there could have been a media firestorm about how cold and heartless the Northwestern crew was. Instead, the MAW people, the family, and the Northwestern crew worked together to brainstorm a compromise with the goal of giving him a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

              He ended up spending two full days with the crew while they were in Seattle and he got to go out crabbing with them in the Puget Sound. He got to be with them at the SeaFair Torchlight parade in the Grand Marshall's booth, he got to pilot the Northwestern in the Puget Sound, he got to watch the Blue Angels fly over in a VIP box with the crew, and he got to do what he really wanted--throw out crab pots and catch some crab.

              It was definitely not the same adventure as the Bering Sea, but the crew and MAW people made sure he had an incredible time. Two of the crew and their families, including one of the Hansen brothers, remain family friends to this day and go out of their way to support whatever they can to support causes that will help kids like my buddy and Enzo.

              If the family's response had been umbrage instead of understanding, if the MAW people more constrained in their thinking and less creative, and if the Northwestern crew were less flexible in schedule, the end result could have made a news story very much like the one about Ina Garten and Enzo.

              Instead, there is one very happy, cancer-free (for three years!) boy who had the experience of a lifetime with his idols, who have remained involved in his life long after the cameras stopped rolling.

              I will say for all those who posted on the other thread about "it's just a couple of hours to make a kid happy," well, you just have no idea. There is much more to it than that, even if it's in the relative safety of a studio kitchen. The PR machine from MAW and local cancer organizations alone will become a huge time impact, as will local news, etc. It is a lot more than a couple of hours.

              I truly hope Enzo gets the experience his heart desires because even if he is guaranteed a long and healthy life, he has no doubt been through the kind of hell that most adults will never know.

              1. re: jlhinwa

                awesome, just awesome - I'm smiling.

                1. re: hill food

                  It was an amazing experience. He had the best time with those guys and they treated him with such respect and consideration...made him feel like one of the crew, not a sick kid.

                  To me, the best part of the story, and the part that no news show will ever cover, is that 3+ years later, they are still friends. They check up on him, they show up to events, they genuinely care for him.

                2. re: jlhinwa

                  this. . . actually imo backs up my initial "what, really, she couldn't do *anything* for this kid?!?" reaction and would seem to point to policies in place w her support staff to do broad refusals to individuals and charities not on a pre-approved list. if the MAW foundation worked with the most dangerous catch dudes on brainstorming and executing a compromise that enhanced a child's life and led to lasting memories and friendships. . . one could assume they would also have been willing to go the extra mile with ina's "people." if garten has worked with MAW in the past, then certainly one of her pr people is the direct contact with specific folks from MAW and these communications should go smoothly without garten's involvement for the most part.

                  this is a media person with a lot of human resources at her disposal-- the child could have had a cooking experience "on set" with members of ina's staff, or with restaurant chefs/contacts/friends of ina's in the child's home area, and visited with garten for just a few minutes-- enough time to pop a cake out of the oven and snap a few photos together. garten could have asked a culinary contact to do a hands-on cooking lesson for enzo, then popped in for a video chat and sent an autographed photo. she could have sent the family to cook with one of her "very best friends" who's appeared at some point on the show, with her well-wishes, and had a real part in helping a sick kid's emotional wellness-- that had nothing to do personally with her own hands. there are ways she could have delegated this and other pr tasks to unpaid media interns, for goodness sake.

                  i am sorry to say i don't see any connection between a dangerous fishing vessel on the bering sea, and ina garten's mansion kitchen in the hamptons, besides the presence of television cameras. one of these places is appropriate for the safety and well-being of a sick child and the other is not. anyone who would fault the fishermen for saying straight up that taking a kid on a *dangerous* (word that is in the title. of. the. show.) fishing expedition is not appropriate is totally loony. ina garten does not get a pass on those grounds, unless i'm seriously missing the element of looming mortal danger on her show while she's making ice cream bombes in a home kitchen, sheesh.

                  the point of your post seems to be that the fishermen worked with MAW and made the effort to find a compromise with the result that they spent two full days with a sick kid. i don't think it's an understatement to say that it sounds like this changed the sick child's life and attitude/enthusiasm and was a very very good thing to do. however, despite having more human resources and contacts at her disposal, and presumably with a much bigger budget than that of the fishing crew, nobody from garten's media empire worked with MAW and another child's family on any compromise, no matter how small or token a gesture. by a small token gesture, i think that even a "get well" card with a signed promo photo, or a couple of studio audience tickets to a public appearance, would have made a difference to an ill child.

                  people who make tons of money are generally astoundingly busy making it, but there are ways that they can still manage to touch other people's lives, even if the main heavy lifting is all done by their pr "handlers" and personal assistant staff people. considering that other people have stepped up with a willingness to help this child, what would have been ina garten's problem with a simple referral to a "lesser" culinary personality/contact to give the kid an afternoon in the kitchen? seems like her staff could have easily outsourced some goodwill here.

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    One point of my story is that if any of the three parties (parents, MAW staff, and Northwestern crew) had handled things differently, it could have gone a completely different way. My friend could have been made that her son was told no to his original request and stomped off mad with no further effort to work things out.

                    A very relevant piece of information I forgot to mention is that one of the Northwestern crew's wife is a coworker with a friend of this family. There had been autographed photos sent through this third party before the MAW idea was even discussed. I don't know, but wouldn't be surprised to learn, that the early contact for simple fan memorabilia probably helped pave the way later. I know they all have handlers that get involved in screening requests but if the boy was already known to them, it probably helped.

                    My biggest point is that there is alway so much more to a story than what is reported, and all the "fact checks" in the world won't guarantee accuracy. Then there is the perspective of each party, and the truth is usually somewhere in between. Even when all people involved are coming from a good place.

                    1. re: jlhinwa

                      No truer words spoken and I wish the OP had been about success stories instead of gossip all along. jlhinwa, thank you for sharing this terrific account with us.

                      1. re: jlhinwa

                        I am kind of surprised that MAW doesn't operate more on process that communicates that the request could not be accommodated and not specifically that a person has denied a request. Yeah you can put two and two together, but if a child requests a couple of options, and one can be accommodated, there should be less fallout.

                        This comes across as "that mean lady doesn't like you", which unfortunately appears to be what the parents communicated to the child in a sense , based on the questions he had about why she didn't want to meet him. Which is their prerogative I guess, as they are his parents, I just don't know why anyone would tell the poor kid that someone doesn't want to meet him, as opposed to explaining it in a sense that it wasn't able to happen.

                        Surely there was a better way to pad this all around.

                        1. re: im_nomad

                          That's exactly what I was thinking. Thanks for reading my mind and wording it so nicely.

                          1. re: im_nomad


                            The MAWF presskit provides all the points any one would need to know before contacting a local chapter; including what it costs to have a wish granted. There is no reason for the public to guess how MAWF operates, as a public non profit charity the information is by law available to all of us.

                        2. re: soupkitten

                          So, is it you contention that every celebrity is bound to grant every wish that comes her way?

                          1. re: pikawicca

                            pikaw, I'm not letting this "media event" ruin my experience with MAWF at all. And, I hope if not now at some point you won't feel that way about supporting them. Chapters exist all of the country and while they follow the same credo, the individual coordinators have their own contacts, own families and own stories. If I didn't believe in MAWF, I wouldn't be a long time sponsor. My charitable dollars aren't unlimited and plenty of worthwhile orgs. exist to help but I know you realize it is the children you will be turning your back on, not the organization. If you were to lift the lid on any of the top national charities you would find similar stories and disappointing moments in their own org. history's. This one is just playing out right now.

                            On a more positive note, charitable events sponsored by food people from all walks of life happen every day, should receive more prominent press and help thousands of people each year.

                            The good far outweighs the ugly. Charity is about the good.

                            1. re: HillJ

                              My go to-site for evaluating charities is They rate the various MAW chapters all over the map. There are other food related charities that are consistently rated higher. They will get my money.

                              1. re: pikawicca

                       is a better evaluator but you do realize that it is the charities that complete and submit the information that these sites publish, right?

                                If you want solid information, visit the 990 of the food charity you wish to support. 990's are annual tax filings open to public inspection. Everything you need is right there.

                                And yes, you have the obsolute right to select whichever charity you wish to support with your hard earned money but what about MAWF and their experience with one food personality was enough to turn you off forever?

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  I don't want to get into a pissing contest with you, HILLJ, as I generally enjoy your posts. However, any charity that "outs" someone for not contributing has a serious problem, in my book.

                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                    Oh that wasn't my point at all. Outing is a funny turn of phrase given the tabloid nature of this post. If I put you on the spot, my bad. I apologize.

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      it hasn't been shown conclusively that MAWF is the one in this equation who outed Ina. The TMZ article linked to the mom's blog.

                                      This story is long on conjecture and finger-pointing, and short on actual facts.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        sunshine842, no it hasn't. With our local chapter insisting that the Moms blog went viral by her readers and TMZ got hold of the story...and it ran like a kite from there. Every MAWF chapter is dealing w/the fallout.

                        3. re: jlhinwa

                          AWESOME. I love Deadliest Catch, and the Northwestern is my favorite of the lot. So glad to hear they have great hearts!

                          1. re: boogiebaby

                            Until about a year before my buddy got sick, I had no clue about the show or any of the boats and their crews. I got quite an education, let me tell you. I was a bit cynical and thought they were probably doing this for the p.r., maybe as a general sense of the importance of giving back, etc. Wow, was I wrong. I still find the whole concept of that kind of fishing quite frightening and watching the show makes me tense, but I am now a fan for life.

                          2. re: jlhinwa

                            jlhinwa, that is so encouraging and heartwarming to hear! thanks for sharing that story of compassion, generosity and healing!

                    2. re: karenfinan

                      I believe that if you were to look at the numbers, few celebrities reject Make a Wish requests. The plight of children with serious illness seems to give a sufficient tug on pretty much everyone's heart strings to honor such requests. The 100 requests would surely largely be perfunctory and not of this significance.

                      1. re: lappgirl

                        Look at what numbers? Why is MAW publishing its won-loss score of requests VS requests granted? That sounds pretty coercive, especially in this current climate where the internet is too handy a vehicle for slamming anyone who says no.

                        If you've given your quota of money or time to charities you admire, do you want the next one who asks for money/time to publicly humiliate you because you won't give? Why do you think celebrities don't deserve the same consideration?

                    3. re: SmartCookie

                      The original request was 3 years ago - how are they to remember? They probably don't have a spreadsheet detailing all of the requests to which they can refer back for all the yeas or nays.

                      But yes - damage control due to the woman blogging that she expected the MAW and Ina to grant Enzo's wish. small h put it very succinctly - Mom chose to be an emotional blackmailer with her blog.

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        That's totally been my take on this situation. I know she's going through more than anyone should have to, but this all rings odd to me.

                      2. re: SmartCookie

                        I find it completely believable. She's a famous television chef. She obviously gets a lot of requests for everything form personal appearances to signed photos to outright financial gifts. She has a staff who handles the requests and sees what she can do given her schedule and only forwards those requests on to Garten that are possible.

                        People who think otherwise don't understand the demands put upon celebrities, especially celebrities like Ina Garten that appear on television and are obviously wealthy and seem friendly and accessible.

                      3. I wonder what happened to the thread on Chow - it looks like it got yanked.

                        1 Reply
                        1. I've been following this story, here and elsewhere, and while I'm very sympathetic to the plight of the kid, it really seems as if his mother has been quite the emotional blackmailer - and quite the PR maven! Although she's now asking everyone to "stop the madness," she also said this, earlier this month:

                          "...out of EVERY PERSON (emphasis hers) on this earth he chose Ina, and she cannot see what an honor that is. And he wanted to actually be with her for NO (emphasis hers, again) reason other then to have her company and cook with her. I actually feel badly for her because Enzo has NOTHING (that's still mama with the emphasis) but pure love and intensions (sic) and she will never get to have that experience with him and she is missing out on something so authentic and beautiful."


                          I can only imagine that when this much anticipated wish gets granted, it will be with a strong undercurrent of resentment on both sides. Fun!

                          22 Replies
                          1. re: small h

                            The real loser in all of this? The kid.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              I can't be the only one thinking "balloon boy."

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    The kid might be a loser but not because Ina Garten couldn't grant his wish. He's losing because his mom is a selfish bully who exploited her son's illness to wage an Internet smear campaign against without knowing how either the Make a Wish Foundation works or the scale and scope of demands placed upon celebrities. She seems to have never stopped to think what other requests and obligations Ina Garten has, both personally and professionally.

                                  2. re: small h

                                    Call me a cynic if you will, but I have a hard time believing that a 3 y/o would want to see Ina Garten, much less remember his MAW from 3 years ago. Nope, I think it's Mommy that wants to see Ina.

                                    And for God's sake, seriously taking this to the media because you don't get what you want? I understand the child is doing well, and good for him. But seriously, assuming he's a survivor, do you really want to be known as the kid whose mother was a jerk?

                                    1. re: marcia

                                      You are a cynic.

                                      My niece stayed with us over the summer and the only battle we had was her crazed desire to watch a cupcake making show. I had to bribe her with real cupcakes that she could decorate.

                                      I will go on record here and now - I would be a terrible mother. Bribe city baby!

                                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                        I think cupcakes are different from some woman cooking a dinner for her friends on Food Network. Cupcakes are much more appealing to a 3 y/o than a sit down dinner.

                                        I still don't believe that this kid wanted to meet Ina. I think his mother did, or at least convinced him that he wanted it.

                                        I think way too much has been made of this debacle, and Ina has gotten some really bad press, and I'm not even a fan. Something about her turns me off. I think it's that too mellow voice. And then we have Paula Deen, who makes me nuts. Isn't there someone in the middle?

                                        1. re: marcia

                                          Cupcakes were the main lure, but she liked some other woman whose name escapes me... Southern butter lady. Jeesh I am brain addled. Argh - it is in your post - Paula Dean. My gosh I need to go eat dinner!

                                          But sure, it could be the mother. Generally speaking mothers of sick children do not try to steal their children's wish though.

                                          She has indeed gotten bad press. Maybe she will be more hands on with the decisions about how she will spend her time.

                                          I am with you on both of their voices. I am Southern in a giant Southern family and nobody I know has that thick of an accent. I sorta like that Ina is a bit of a Cruela.

                                          1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                            I think Ina Garten is to a cooking show as Sade is to jazz music. Quite lovely, I guess, if you like that sort of thing. Personally, I find both soporific. Dull, dull, dull. I guess I could also say it's like watching golf on TV if one is not a golf fan, which I am not. Snoozefest.

                                              1. re: marcia

                                                Ina is not frantic. I love her soft voice while she demonstrates. I will be forever grateful for her pie crust recipe.

                                          2. re: Sal Vanilla

                                            Why not just let her watch the show?

                                            1. re: small h

                                              Good point. Probably healthier, too. Unless, of course, the kid wanted to do both. In that case, I would also compromise w/the child to make cupcakes rather than suffering through one of those awful cupcake shows, although the only one I've seen is "Cupcake Wars". Once. I couldn't take the judges, not to mention that Billy Bush clone pretending to be Ted Allan.

                                              1. re: small h

                                                Because it was midday and beautiful. We would be out on the water or on a hike and whining and crying would ramp up if it looked as if we would not get home in time.

                                                I come from the kids should be out playing in the yard with the animals point of view not inside watching TV.

                                                She watched it some. I am not a mean auntie.

                                                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                  Oh, so it wasn't that you wouldn't let her watch the show. It was that you wouldn't stop what you were doing and race home to catch it. That makes sense.

                                                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                    I think the fact that you brought her cupcakes to decorate herself is brilliant. She'll remember the time spent decorating cupcakes with you loooong after she forgets the tv show.

                                                2. re: marcia

                                                  That's pretty harsh, don't you think?

                                                  1. re: marcia

                                                    You'd be surprised what small children find interesting. My five-year-old daughter has been a gigantic fan of David Attenborough since she was two, and recently, on two separate occasions, expressed a wish to meet him.

                                                    1. re: jlafler

                                                      well who WOULDN'T? what a cool kid, one to watch her future interests. could lead to interesting places/careers. (seriously it's so sad when kids are boring - annoy me sure, but at least be interesting)

                                                    2. re: marcia

                                                      When I was three, I could read. And I loved TV. There weren't any cooking shows then, so what I wanted to watch was As the World Turns.

                                                  2. All I can say is, after this brouhaha, everyone involved will have a really excellent time. Or not.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                      1. re: mamachef

                                                        It's all about Enzo, so I'm sure he'll have a good time.

                                                        1. re: dave_c

                                                          Not so sure. Seems more about mom, Ina and the media firestorm.

                                                          If I was 6 (or 46) I'd rather swim with the dolphins . . . And I actually enjoy the Barefoot Contessa shows, but as an adult I don't confuse the person and the persona.

                                                      2. It's definitely a move to save face for Ina...but the big unknown is how it all went down in the first place...and it will likely always be an unknown.

                                                        We don't know how the original request was laid out, and we didn't see any of the dialog between the three parties, so all any of us can do is guess.

                                                        It's unfortunate that it ends up with Ina looking like the bad guy who's making the "oh, all RIGHT" gesture...whether that's what happened, or she got blindsided with the whole thing and is trying to do the right thing.

                                                        (Disclaimer: I am no fan AT ALL of Ina.)

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          I can't believe MAW does a sales job on a celeb for the individual case of each child. If I were a celeb, I'd say to MAW, okay, I have room for one kid per week (for example) and you guys need to prioritize which kid gets picked. My staff doesn't have time to listen to each story - you (MAW) are the ones responsible for qualifying the wish-maker.

                                                          1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                            I'm with you, and if I were ever inclined to donate to MAW, I'm certainly not now.

                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                              This is why I won't ever donate to them again, either. This whole thing has totally soured me, and I'm not even a fan of Ina Garten.